I recently spoke with the Vice President (VP) of Supply Chain Management for a manufacturing and distribution company in the Southeast. As a producer of materials for domestic and commercial construction, they have multiple distribution centers and thousands of employees supported by a central ERP system (SAP).
The company is looking to close the competitive gap with some of their key competitors who have lower order processing error rates and better overall profitability. As a result, Esker has been introduced as part of the strategy to improve process efficiency, reduce errors, and enable more focus on sales and service instead of manual processes.
Their VP mentioned that, when he initially heard Esker described as an “OCR” tool that could save CSRs time during data entry, he presumed that was the totality of the benefits. However, he went on to explain that, after learning more about Esker’s Order Processing solution, he is supporting the project due to the windfall of benefits he expects beyond just OCR.
Benefits of Order Processing Automation for Supply Chain Management
Giving Customers an Amazon-like Experience
“Our customers are used to ordering personal products online. Amazon has next-day delivery or thereabouts, so there’s pressure to deliver fast, and we commonly pay to ship rush orders. The sales folks don’t always take shipping costs into account, yet my job is to satisfy the customer without continually escalating costs. We need greater visibility of demand; in turn, we can plan truck loads and routes better and in some cases use cheaper delivery options. Plus, one single error can wipe out the profit associated with a delivery — we’ve got to prevent and catch issues upfront and not in the warehouse or DC.”
Absorbing Growth via Strategic Hiring
“The corporate mandate is to improve our margins, so rather than hire new CSRs we are hiring staff that can help sell our higher margin products. Like most companies, we have tight salary budgets, which means we need to enable our CSRs do more quality work that improves the customer experience and ensures the CSRs can support the sales team.”
Creating Quotes from Reference
“Today, we spend a lot of time responding to request for quotes. The teams have to enter the quote and then hopefully a subsequent order. It feels like double the manual data entry having to do both. Applying automation here should allow us to save a lot of time and our VP of Sales and I agree — we can increase our sales numbers if we can unburden our sales team from entering quotes.”
Visibility to Prioritize Valued Customers
“We’ve spent a lot of time categorizing our customers according to value/volume and margin. The ‘FIFO’ model has been replaced. Strategic customers should enjoy a slighty faster experience than one-off customers ordering low volume, so we need the ability to prioritize when orders are validated/entered. Additionally, we track value down to the SKU level, so we want the ability to flag orders with certain key SKUs before they hit SAP. In turn, the planners can use that time to get material cut and organized in the warehouse.”
The pressure to contain costs is only increasing. More than ever, the supply chain leaders we work with often have enthusiastic support for initiatives that positively impact customer experience, margins and sales volumes.
This recent SAP insider study is a great resource for learning more about why improving the customer experience is the key goal for many of today’s companies …